Mérida, August 16th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The former vice president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), General Alberto Muller Rojas, died on Friday at age 75, and National Assembly Deputy Luis Tascón died on Thursday at age 41. Both men were well-known allies of President Hugo Chavez who in recent years became critical of what they saw as corrupt and right-wing elements within the PSUV.
President Chavez attended Muller Rojas’s funeral in a military fort in Caracas on Monday and announced that he would posthumously promote the retired army general to the highest possible rank in the Venezuelan military, General-in-Chief.
Chavez called his close political ally “a true revolutionary soldier, a patriot to the bone,” and said he was “always an irreverent man, a permanently critical thinker, a teacher of rebellious thought and transformative action.” Chavez also wrote of Muller Rojas in his weekly Sunday opinion column yesterday, saying, “I really loved him as if he were my father, and I will always have him in my heart.”
Muller Rojas retired from the military in 1985 and became an active member of a prominent leftist political party, Causa R, and later Patria Para Todos (Homeland for All). He helped lead Chavez’s successful presidential campaign in 1998, and proceeded to become a close adviser to the president.
In 2005, Muller re-entered the armed forces in order to serve on Chavez’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, then retired again in 2007 to participate in the founding of the PSUV. He clashed with Chavez over the extent to which military personnel should be active politically, and was famous for his warnings that Chavez was surrounded by a “nest of scorpions,” referring to who he considered to be corrupt and counter-revolutionary military and political officials who publicly claimed to be Chavez’s allies.
Chavez later made amends with Muller Rojas, saying he valued the retired general’s critiques, and named him first vice president of the PSUV in early 2008. Muller Rojas served in the position until March 2010, when he resigned due to his ailing health. Upon his departure from political life, Muller Rojas remained an outspoken critic of what he called the “bourgeoisie” within the PSUV that was steering Chavez down a path of “petty bourgeois nationalism” that “isn’t healthy for the revolutionary process,” as he put it in an interview with one local newspaper.
Muller Rojas’s death was mourned widely by military officials, PSUV officials, the alternative media, and followers of President Chavez’s Twitter account. National dailies of different political orientations also expressed their condolences.
Luis Tascón, Critic of the “Endogenous Right Wing”
Last Friday, National Assembly President Cilia Flores led a minute of silence and announced a three-day mourning period with the Venezuelan flag at half mast in memory of the legislator from Táchira state Luis Tascón, who died of colon cancer on Thursday.
Tascón, a former leftist student leader, was a founding member of the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR) party, which was the major political force behind Chavez’s election in 1998. As a National Assembly legislator elected on the MVR ticket, Tascón remained an ardent Chavez supporter and was one of the lead interrogators of suspects after the 2002 coup attempt that deposed Chavez for two-days. In 2004, Tascón published a list of those who had signed a petition for a referendum to recall President Chavez. This sparked a national controversy as oppositionists said the move was meant to persecute and discriminate against Chavez’s political opponents, but Tascón said his intention was to allow Chavez supporters to assure their names had not been placed on the list without their consent.
During the founding congress of the PSUV in 2008, Tascón roused the anger of several top PSUV officials by publicly denouncing alleged acts of corruption in government institutions. This prompted Chavez and other top officials to demand that Tascón not be admitted to the new party, while other pro-Chavez leaders supported Tascón, saying he was following Chavez’s orders to denounce corruption within the government.
Tascón thereupon formed a splinter party and remained a critic of what he called the “the materialization of the bourgeois state within the revolutionary process.” He also continued to support President Chavez, who he said still represented the “original principles and values of the revolution” that need to be restored.
In recent months Chavez publicly called for people to pray for the Tascón’s health as the legislator underwent surgery. Following Tascón’s death, Chavez wrote in his Sunday opinion column, “The painful death of a genuine revolutionary man named Luis Tascón touched me deep inside. Beyond our differences, I will always remember this great comrade with the deepest affection and acknowledge his integrity and strength.”